Like all funny follow-ups, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising had a big problem to face: repetitiveness. The 2016 sequel sees the return of Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) and their now-toddler daughter Stella. With a new arrival on the horizon, the couple decide they need a bigger home for their growing family and so decide to sell up. The only catch is that they have to spend 30 days in escrow before they can move on to their new life.
That proves easily said than done when the couple discover their new neighbors are a group of freshmen girls hell-bent on establishing the very first sorority that knows how to party. Led by rebellious Shelby (Chloë Grace More), the girls of Kappa Nu are ready to disrupt the system and write a "nu" set of rules.
Armed with a plot that is strikingly similar to the original, Neighbors 2 was set to be just another comedy sequel primed to repeat the same gags and jokes as the first film. But instead, the inclusion of Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron), the former president of Delta Psi Beta and the Radner's nemesis from the first movie, helps propel the story forward. With Teddy's old crew moving on and making plans for the future, he finds himself at a crossroads and questioning his own self-worth, which ultimately brings him into conflict with the Radners once again.
In fact, when deciding if the sequel would be something worth doing, Rogen decided that Teddy's story would be the perfect jumping-off point for the events of the follow-up. In an interview with Collider, Rogen had this to say about the development of the film:
"We knew that Teddy would probably be a guy who would graduate college, but have no skills, and he’d probably be pretty depressed about it. That gave us a good idea of where his story could go. We didn’t really want to get into us wanting to party anymore. That seemed like it had passed. It seemed like maybe we’d have another kid and enter the next phase of parenting and wonder if we were bad parents, if our kids would relate to us, one day, or if we’d be able to talk to them, and all of those fears."
The fear of the unknown is the central issue driving all the characters in this film. Shelby and her two new friends Beth (Kiersey Clemons) and Nora (Beanie Feldstein) are starting college and navigating a world where they have to make decisions for the first time without parental supervision. After attending their first frat party, they decide to start their own sorority, not only to party but to create a safe space for girls to do so without having to be sex objects for guys. Teddy's fear of the future and trying to find a place in it, and the fact he's got nothing much going on in his life, puts him in a position to help the girls build a reputation as the new "It" organization. This places the team in direct conflict with the Radners while they are in the midst of dealing with their panic of having a second child and what it means to be good parents.
The filmmakers made a smart move in pushing the established characters' stories forward in a way that felt like a natural progression from the first film. It really added depth to a story that was in danger of being just a straight-up rehash of all the things we saw in the original, and it really made the sequel a very enjoyable romp. I find you often don't have this successful of a flow in most comedy sequels *cough, cough, Zoolander 2, cough, cough*. In fact, in rewatching Neighbors 2's trailer, I noticed there were no noticeable sequences that were left out of the final cut of the movie. The filmmakers were thoughtful in their use of the more popular and funnier gags, and in my opinion this makes for a better and funnier film than the first.